Former Stoke chief scout reveals motives behind signing Ramadan Sobhi
Sobhi had joined Stoke City in 2016 from Al Ahly and struggled to find playing time after making a total of 46 appearances for the Potters before they got relegated from the Premier League in 2018.
The 23-year-old then headed to Huddersfield Town for a fee in the region of £6m but failed to adapt as he returned to his boyhood club Al Ahly six months later before joining Pyramids FC on a permanent deal this summer.
Kevin Cruickshank has now briefly discussed Sobhi’s time in England and what drove Stoke City to pursue the winger’s signature in 2016.
“Our focus for recruitment at that time was primarily on Europe,” Cruickshank said via The Sentinel.
“I went to Argentina a couple of times but Africa was never a thought, with work permits as well as logistics for follow-ups and everything else.
“But I actually saw the video of Ramadan standing on the ball (for Al Ahly against Zamalek), did a bit of work, watched more of him on Wyscout and got (colleagues) Lee Maybury and Tom Sutton to have a look too.
“We all saw the potential so Mark Cartwright [Stoke City technical director] backed us to keep going.
“The way we had to make contact, in the end, was through Hector Cuper, who was the national team manager and had the same agent as (then Stoke youth player) Sergio Molina.
“Ramadan didn’t speak any English but I spoke to his agent and him about Stoke, the project and the plan – and he’d look you straight in the eyes and pay attention to everything.
“You could tell he was a big deal. There were posters of him everywhere. I think he had three different marketing contracts and when we were shaking hands he was surrounded by people wanting photos and autographs,” he added.
Cruickshank then went on to praise Sobhi and revealed why the winger struggled to adapt to English football.
“He was obviously skilful but so strong too. He was an 18-year-old then and playing up against big centre-halves.
“I knew if he came to the Premier League he’d be ok with the physical side. It’s a completely different level but he was an 18-year-old man, not boy.
“The pace of the Premier League did prove to be too much at that time but with his technique and skill, he could handle himself.
“He actually played more games quicker than we had anticipated. We thought it would take six to 12 months for him to break in with a new language and new culture but, unfortunately, we were on a downward turn and that made things hard for him.
“He went to another relegation battle with Huddersfield when you wonder how things might have been different if he’d gone to play regularly and score goals in Belgium or Holland.
“I really hope he comes again. I remember watching Ahmed Hegazi when he was at Ismaily. He got a move to Fiorentina at 19, that proved too early so he went back and eventually ended up in the Premier League at West Brom. Hopefully, it’ll be the same with Ramadan.”
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